Tuesday, February 23, 2010


March is a good place to start. It begins next week and it's a fresh, shiny, new month.

In order to stay on track with the 12 month plan, here's what needs to be accomplished:

1) Open savings account
2) Save $30/week (I plan to do this by eating out less.)
3) File taxes
4) FINALLY unpack my room and sort through all of my stuff
5) Save all of my Sur La Table money in savings account (This is going to be the hardest to accomplish.)
6) Contemplate selling and possibly sell my car
7) Keep my promise with lent and avoid laziness at all costs

I took the one less travelled by, and that has made all the difference.

Let's start by telling everyone that I have been promoted at Sur La Table to a shift manager. Pay increase, steady hours, and somewhat of an improvement in job responsibility. Yay me.

Financially, this is a wonderful thing. I have been doing some scheming lately to pay down some debt, and this couldn't help more.

I'm trying to get my finances on track because, honestly, they are holding me back from doing anything that I could ever want to do with culinary school and my career otherwise.

On to the real reason for this post...

I have a plan. This is rare for me. For those that know me best, I change my mind about what I'm doing more than I would like... I usually just jump right in and throw all caution to the wind and just know that "somehow it will all work out." That, my friends, is the stressful way to do things. If you want to make yourself all worrisome and frantic, by all means, choose this mode of operation. However, if you would like to remain sane, a plan is a good place to start.

On the heels of my mother's advice, I have created a 12 month financial/goal plan to get me to where I want to be. It's written down. In ink. In a book that I can't lose.

Unfortunately, for many reasons, I cannot publicly post the majority of my plan until a later date. Here's what I can tell you...

1) We are still on the road to Paris. Just not quite the way I originally intended it... (Hence the title of this post.
2) It would involve a move.
3) I would be going to culinary school.
4) I would not be moving to Paris to go to culinary school.

My plan is designed so that I can choose at the end of 12 months to execute this plan or to remain in my current positions... But all good things are leading up to this destination... I plan on paying down a significant part of my debt. All of my credit cards and part of my student loans. I plan on purging a great amount of my stuff... I'm only hanging on to what is necessary. I'm trying to simplify a great number of things. Who really needs a box full of stationary? I never write anyone...

So, that's sort of my plan. I apologize for the vagueness, but it is somewhat necessary at this juncture since, like I mentioned earlier, I tend to change my mind really really fast.

So here's to 12 months. I'll keep you posted.

Friday, October 30, 2009

HUGE Update.

Well... there is a lot to be told...

First of all. I am absolutely in love with my job. I do so much everyday. I work with people and for people all day long. I'm absolutely exhausted when I'm done, but it's soooo worth it. I find new challenges and most everything is an adventure.

Second of all. I have taken on a second job. The reason will be explained later in the post. I now also work at Sur La Table. It's seasonal, but fun. Not to mention the obligatory employee discount on all kinds of cool kitchen stuff... including knives :) Things bought so far: Ceramic peeler, digital thermometer, and the book "The Food Lover's Companion". There are so many more things to come... and basically everyone is getting gifts from there this Christmas...

Thirdly. This is the big news. I have postponed culinary school indefinitely. I may go someday... but for now I'm getting all the information I need. Also, since I have a bachelor's degree, if I ever wanted to get into any sort of Culinary Management (i.e. - Executive Chef), there's a very good chance my degree and experience combined would be qualify. Chef has agreed to teach me all that he knows and work with me to make sure I know all that I need to know. I feel fortunate every day that I was placed in the situation I am in. So so fortunate.

What does this mean for Paris? Oh it will still happen. Just not through an internship. Which I think I may like a little better.

My sister has officially moved down from Canada and her daughter and husband are to follow soon. Which brings me to the second job. Not only am I trying to get some bills paid down, but my mom, my sister and her family, and myself got a new house! We will be renting one of the old mansions near downtown starting November 13th. Exciting stuff!! I didn't necessarily get the job at Sur La Table initially because of that, but I'm sure it will be a tremendous help!

The house is beautiful and sister and I are already scheming about Thanksgiving and Christmas decorations inside and out... we even perused the very few Christmas items that were already out at Wal-Mart. I love fall and I love the holidays. Anyway, it's 5 bedroom, 1 bath, hardwood floors, lots of original character, and has a lovely backyard for lots of planting and barbecuing... not to mention a gourmet kitchen complete with convection oven :D

Life is so grand right now. I mean, I have two jobs that I absolutely love and everything else is just going oh-so-well.

The only thing that's missing are a few of my very closest friends, but distance doesn't change much... it just creates a longing to see them once again :)

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

40 days.

Greetings to all. I know I know.... long time no post. My apologies.

I've had some personal life speed bumps that prompted a lack of enthusiasm for posting. So on we go...

Well, I've been truckin' right along the past couple of weeks at my little omelet station. Did you know I've been spelling omelet wrong? I didn't. Oops.

This past Sunday we served over 211 omelets due to the USC v. OSU game. We had a 100% occupancy rate, thus the increase in breakfast patrons. So, with Papa D and I doing the omelet station that means I made over 100 omelets in a 3 hour period. Basically, I was making an omelet every 2 minutes. It was crazy!!! When I finished the day I was absolutely covered in egg. Chef G couldn't have been more proud of us. We "got down" and we made stuff happen.

It was so fun. Like, I can't even explain. Busy? Hell yeah. But the best sort of busy. I even turned and told Chef... "Man, that was FUN!"

Chances are we will eventually be much busier and have a lot more people, but for now, we are just steadily busy with a few rushes every now and then.

Today was a learning day. These are my favorite kind of days because I sponge up so much information. More than I usually know what to do with.

We had a function for tonight for 13 or so people. So we did preparation for that as soon as breakfast was over. Chef G gave me a wealth of knowledge on soups and tasting foods. I mean, refining your brain and tastebud connection isn't just something that happens overnight. It takes a LOT of work. Luckily that work is usually tasting whatever it is that is being made :)

So I learned that you have to make sure your mir-poiux (celery, onions, carrots, shallots and garlic) are browned before you add any liquid so you get a smoother, sweeter flavor. You also have to let it simmer for quite a while to get the main ingredient's flavors to come out. The soup today was cream of mushroom. It, once again, was heaven. Just like the amazing potato bisque from a few last week.

Today I also learned how to make a coulis (said "cool-ie"). We made it in mango and strawberry. It literally means "make from oneself". Honest to god.... fruit, water, and sugar.... boiled and reduced.... to almost a syrup consistency. So I now know how to concentrate fruit flavoring. It was going on top of a cheesecake. I tried it with said cheesecake. Warm sauce with cold cheesecake.... how far is heaven?

Did I mention that I love my job? I get to cook for people all the time. It's great!!! I get to learn about cooking nonstop... AND... I get to eat!! Because what would a chef be if you didn't taste your food?

Oh yes.... and another thing.... blanching asparagus takes a bit longer than blanching kale. That was my mistake. I almost served raw asparagus. Again... oops.

But it's all a learning process. It's in such a safe learning environment too. I know just enough to get by and that changes every day as I'm given new and different things to do.

I got my information for orientation for culinary school. Now my only obstacle is finding a co-signer for my loans. Ugh... I'm short a few thousand, so I have to take out a private loan... boooo.... and since I don't have enough credit history to stand on my own, I must have a co-signer. I hate asking people to co-sign. It's just such a dirty business. Oh well. Something will work out. It always does :)

So I've decided to start the countdown. I start culinary school in exactly 40 days. Shit.

Who's ready to pee their pants? I am!

(I promise, I'll try to be better about posting)

Monday, August 31, 2009

Find a job you love and you'll never work a day in your life.

The above statement couldn't be more true.

So much happened today. No, I wasn't a rock star, but I didn't fall on my butt either.

I got there at 5:45am this morning. Still dark. I was there before anyone... so odd. I'm usually the one who is late? Well, we dove right in. I guess I sort of thought there would be a little hand holding through the process of the morning production, but I quickly remembered that we were hired to do a job and were basically expected to just do it. Thankfully Papa D, the other omlet cook, was there to get the job done. I didn't really know what to do, so I just started dicing peppers. I thought to myself that dicing peppers was the one thing I knew I could do and do well.


Apparently.... there's a lot more to dicing peppers than I ever knew. Like, not only do you have to get rid of the core with all the seeds and the white membrane parts that hold the core in place, but you also have to thinly shave the membrane off of the entire inside of the pepper so it almost looks like a seeded tomato when you're finished. Chef G was there to gently guide me to better knife skills. He was not upset at all... he said "It's alright. We knew going into this that your knife skills needed work. We're going to turn you in to a chopping MACHINE!" :)

So, for all of you wondering. Here are a few helpful tips:
Keep the tip of the knife on the cutting board at all times. This helps with stability.
Make sure your guiding hand (my left hand since I'm right-handed) is always directly next to the knife. I was holding my hand too far back on the vegetable and, had the knife rolled, I would've been more vulnerable to be cut... whereas keeping your guiding hand close to the knife, it would just roll with the knife and generally aviod any cuts.
The proper motion for cutting (with tip on cutting board) is up, back, down and forward... almost a circular cut. This way, you ensure a slice that goes all the way through whatever you are cutting.
And lastly and most important of all... DON'T BE AFRAID OF THE KNIFE. If you are overly cautious, you will most certainly cut yourself. The knife must be an extension of your hand and work together with the guiding hand for even, consitent cuts.

Now, in Julie and Julia, Julia Child talks about the conviction it takes to flip something... and let me tell you... the lady does not lie. After we had our omlet station prepped, we began making omlets for the different people that had worked on the hotel. Well, when I was to flip my omlet for the very first time, suddenly there were about 10 people standing around watching me. Chef G had to remind me that it was no different than standing in my kitchen at home flipping. While I would beg to differ, I just tried to conjure up all of those times I'd flipped an omlet (most of the time unsuccessfully) in my own kitchen. Apparently, I had the perfect blend of prior experience and conviction because I flipped that sucker and it landed in the pan beautifully. I made a total of 4 omlets this morning and I never missed one single flip :)

After we were done with omlets, we went on to do production for lunch and dinner. I was so terrified because Chef G was just passing out recipes and we were to just do them. Now, I can follow a recipe... but I've never carved meats by hand or infused oils. Luckily, Baha saved the day by pairing me with another cook to work on a few recipes. I basically just ended up mincing and onion and red pepper and going on with it.

Somehow, I ended up in charge of the bacon. Now, who doesn't love bacon? I mean, a day just can't be all that bad if there's some bacon involved, right?

So I spent about an hour and half cooking bacon and reserving the bacon fat for a dressing that we make. Before I knew it, Chef G was telling me to go home and come back at 5:30 this evening for a full roll-out of our dinner menu.

I was at work for over 7 hours and couldn't even tell. Even though I slept horribly last night and didn't know how the day would go, I was still feeling good and ready and eager to work.

That all changed after lunch. Once I was full, I totally passed out on the couch with the kitties for a good 2 hours.

When I got back to the kitchen at 5:30, all chef said was "It's go time! Let's do it!" Uhhhhh....do what? I've been gone for 4.5 hours. What am I supposed to do???

Oh. That's right. Dinner. In 30 minutes. Shit.

So everyone started whizzing around and plating and cooking and doing all sorts of things.

Now, I must say at this point, I didn't do much of anything to help. I gathered ingredients and read off the recipes while a few people plated up the items.... But, I made SURE to watch every last delicate detail so I would know how to do it if asked. I did a lot of that today. Show/tell me once and I'll do it correctly when I have to do it solo. And so I did. So... what did we make? Here's the menu :)

Calamari w/ ancho chilli aioli and micro greens (ABSOLUTELY out of this world. That chili aioli is delicious stuff. I want to spread it on EVERYTHING!)
Crab Cakes w/ sriracha aioli and micro greens (Pretty good. The crab was very delicate.)
Coconut Shrimp w/ grilled pinapple salsa and soy orange reduction (So, even though I helped make that pinapple salsa, I didn't get to try it... oh well)
Roasted Red Pepper Hummus w/ pita chips and balsamic reduction (If you like hummus, you'd love this. Mmmmm)
Chicken Thai Spring Rolls w/ ginger chile stout broth (Sadly, this is the one item I really really wanted to try and didn't get to)
Goat Cheese Croustade w/ prosciutto truffle oil and seasonal fruit (I didn't even see this one anywhere... did we make it?)

I didn't try any of the salads... just because I wasn't really in the salad mood, but I'll post them anyway.
Classic Wedge Salad served with bacon ranch dressing crumbled bleu cheese, roma tomatoes, and chopped onions
Classic Caesar Salad crisp romaine, shaved parmesan cheese, herb croutons, Caesar dressing
Apple Walnut Salad Spinach, granny smith and red delicious apples, candied walnuts, goat cheese, balsamic vinegarette
Cobb Salad mixed greens, chopped bacon, hard boiled eggs, red onion, crumbled bleu cheese, chopped chicken, chopped roma tomatoes
Grilled Shrimp and White Bean Salad cannellini beans, mixed greens, grilled shrimp, roasted red peppers, red onions and fresh basil with a roasted shallot vinegarette dressing

Original Reuben Panini Sandwich marble rye bread, cornbeef, thousand island dressing, sauerkraut, swiss cheese (This was actually, by far my FAVORITE thing that I tried. I don't know why... It may have been the premium corn beef or the rye bread... but I LOVED it. It really hit the spot and had such a great flavor!)
Grilled Chicken Florentine Panini oven roasted tomatoes, spinach herb cheese spread, fresh buffalo mozzarella (The buffalo mozzarella is what made this one fantastic. Or maybe it was the spinach herb cheese spread. Either way, a really good chicken panini!)
Certified Angus Beef Burger 1/3 lb burger, choice of cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion (Perhaps it's the 1/3 lb beef... or the "angus" in the title... but I passed on trying this one. Ick.)
Roast Beef and Cheddar Panini rosemary focaccia bread, aged cheddar cheese, caramelized onions, choice shaved beef, horseradish sauce (I have a weakness for focaccia bread... and then you throw some roast beef and caramelized onions on there... hell, you may as well buy me weekly pass to heaven)
Grilled Veggie Burger whole wheat bun, lettuce, tomato, onion, avocado (So I don't know who said there should be a veggie option on the menu, but BRAVO to them. I didn't try it because they're Morningstar and I've had those before)

Handcut Petite Filet Minon Paired with chianti wild mushroom demi glaze (Mmm Mmm... I love filet... I doesn't take much to woo me)
Salmon Sienna Salmon poached in a lobster court bouillon, cannellini beans, snow peas, sundried tomatoes, carrots, roasted red peppers and shallots (Now, I'm a salmon person. I LOVE salmon. It takes a lot to impress me when it comes to salmon... and I was impressed. I think it was mainly due to the lobster court bouillon, but it could also be the amazing pairings)
Chicken Saltimbocca Airline chicken stuffed with prosciutto oven roasted tomatoes, fresh herbs, buffalo mozzarella finished with a marsala sage demi (Well folks, by the time I got to this one, it was GONE. So I'm assuming it was great. I guess I'll just have to wait in line for my turn to dance with the chicken)

So that's it. That's the menu. That's what we did today. ALL OF IT.

It was a day full of ups and downs. I'm not gonna lie, at one point, I was questioning whether or not I had it in me. But that thought quickly faded away... because I remembered that I am doing what I love... and with that kind of drive and passion, I know that anything is possible.

....and that the only limit is my soul. :)

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Can't Sleep

Well folks, it's 9:45. And I'm still awake. This is bad news, man. I have to be up at 4. Ugh.

So since I can't sleep, (trust me, I've already been in bed for an hour trying) I decided that I would share a little bit about the end of last week.

I got my uniform! I look all spiffy in my white coat and black pants with green pinstripes. I tried it on and had a complete glee moment. I took some photos (including a "messy apron, clean sleeves" photo) which I shall be posting soon, hopefully... as soon as I locate my USB adapter for my camera. Still unpacking....

On Friday, Chef G gave all of us a copy of the menu for Flying Spoons. Some of the appetizers include calamari and spring rolls. Our entrees I posted on before, so there's no need to mention them again.

Friday we also got our truckload of food. Everything but the fresh produce which was to be delivered on Saturday. Most of us didn't work Saturday. Couldn't go into overtime... at least, not yet :) It was awesome to see all of what we'll be working with. I would have to say my favorite item has to be the White Truffle Oil. Apparently this stuff goes for approximately $25-$30 per 12oz bottle. Nutso. However, I'm sure it's worth every penny! So we got all of that put away and ready for Monday.

So. About tomorrow. I'm a great big ball of scared, anxious, nervous, excited, and terrified. Which is probably contributing to my spontaneous insomnia. That and the great big farewell to fatening food dinner I fixed for mom and I tonight. Anyway, tomorrow morning at 6 am will start my actual hands-on training for the food work I'm going to be doing. The other omlet cook and I will be making omlets for the executive staff and the contractors that have been working on the building. So it's time to put my money where my mouth is. Holy crap. So so scared. But I will post how it honestly went. If I was a rock star, you'll know. If I'm looking for another job as of tomorrow, I'll let you know that, too. Ha.

Then, after the breakfast run through, the breakfast crew will be leaving for a few hours and come back in the afternoon to do a complete dinner run through. After I make and taste everything tomorrow, it is my intention to post the menu with my opinions. I'm sure it will all be great, but most of it I've never tasted before, so I can't wait for the flavor explosion in my mouth.... all I know is one of the dishes is named Chicken Saltimboca. Saltimboca literally means "dance in your mouth" apparently. Let's see how good of a dancer that chicken is.

Well blogging has sufficiently wooed me to sleepiness... just as I thought it might. So.... it's go time :)

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

One Week until we open :)

That's right folks! One Week from today, the hotel opens... and that means it's SHOWTIME!

I got several bits of good news today...

First of all. I got my nametag. Now, again, may not seem like a big deal, but a nametag, in my mind, makes me legit :) Not only that, but it says "Juli Manning" and then below it "Waverly, OH" ... :D Representin' the hometown!! We have people literally from all over the world. Baha is from the Bahamas, another guy is from Ghana, West Africa, and another guy is actually orginally from New Orleans, LA, but was misplaced because of Hurricane Katrina. We are a melting pot of culture and I LOVE it.

Today we also learned some very interesting news. The company wide cook out that we had been planning for the 27th of September was actually on the 27th of August. You know, as in, 2 days from now. Holy mother. So, we worked all day long to ensure that the kitchen is in full working order. Tomorrow we start food prep.

I found out today that I'll be working through Saturday this week which makes for a long week, but Chef G said we'll probably only work 4 days next week since it's opening week and regular schedules are starting. Monday we are having an all-day learning process for how everything we are going to make is produced from start to finish. We are also going to make omlets for the staff as sort of a "dry run", if you will. WOO HOO! I can't wait for Monday! ...when's the last time you heard someone say that? :)

Tuesday we open, but we won't have any guests. It'll just be the staff doing what we do. Then we should have VIP guests start coming the next day. Woo woo!

I also got some good positive reinforcement from Chef G and Baha, but that's for me for now.

Time for bed. I've got to start getting up earlier and earlier for the next few days to prepare for my first 5am shift on Tuesday. Night!